Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book review: Gambling Men by Amy Lane

Gambling Men: The NovelGambling Men: The Novel by Amy Lane

Bitch Factor 10 rating: 4.8

Hmmm, I really wish you could deliver fractional amounts in your Good Reads ratings. This one was a 4.8 for me. I couldn't resist Quent and Jace-- they captured my attention and my heart from the very first pages. I would even be inclined to give this one a 5 if it weren't for the copious amounts of poker metaphors. Sure, I've played poker before (well, playing video poker counts, right?) but since I'm not that much of a player I had to really use my noggin to figure out the gaming and gambling analogies here-- and Emme's noggin just wanted to stay on vacation. You don't have to put on your poker face for this, though, as you'll eventually get the gist of it, even if you're not into that game.

The beginning of the novel is pretty fast-paced, in keeping with Jace's personality and Quent's attempts to keep up with his best friend and business partner. But when things move in a more sexual and romantic direction for the boys, I was able to catch my breath and savor the way Jace and Quent develop into a couple. Their relationship was believable for me, and I like that they had to put some time into strengthening their bond, in spite of them knowing each other for many years.

I liked the secondary characters in this one-- the office staff, as well as the poker buddies. And it would be nice to be filled in on more of the lives of the secondary characters-- I need the scoop on Toby and the mysterious Mack and more interactions between Quent and his family (that might be a bit too painful for Quent, though, so scratch that one). And, Uncle Mike's and Jefferson's story is begging to be told-- what a loving example of the commitment of two men and how they managed to raise a child.

This is another heart-warming friends-to-lovers, with just a dash of conflict (much less than the last Lane book I read, Chase in Shadow, thank Goddess!) and plenty of sizzle. Amy Lane delivers another winner in Gambling Men.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Book review: Hot Hands by Erica Pike

Hot Hands (College Fun and Gays, # 1)Hot Hands by Erica Pike

Bitch Factor 10 rating: 

Well, I'm the kind of girl who can't help but get her hot little hands on a free M/M read. Yeah, I'm cheap like that-- or rather, I owe 75K in student loans and I still have two kids in college, and it's ixnay on the ookbay uyingbay. So, when Erica Pike posted on Twitter that her short, Hot Hands, was available for free the other day, I hopped over to No Boundaries Press and downloaded a copy.

Hot Hands is about Casper, a young gay college student who has been repeatedly groped at school by a mysterious someone. Now I'm of two minds about uninvited groping. The frumpy, law-and-order part of me feels that groping someone without permission borders on (or is…) sexual assault. The sexy libertine part of me says, hey, being groped by someone unknown-- that's fucking hot! These two sides of me were warring when I first started reading this story-- but the one with the over-active libido won out! And, thank Goddess, because Hot Hands turned out to be a surprising and enjoyable read.

It's hard to talk about everything that happens to Casper in Hot Hands without spoilers, so I'll just touch on a couple of things. Casper's groper starts out grasping him in crowded campus situations where he can remain undetected. Eventually the groper becomes even more emboldened, and stages a scene where he sneaks up on Casper, blindfolds him and takes the groping into new territory. Casper, poor boy, is a virgin, so all this clandestine fondling goes right to his gonads, even though he doesn't know who is his Secret Groping Admirer. Part of the fun of Hot Hands is the back and forth in Casper's mind as he tries to whittle down the list of suspects on his college campus to people he knows and who would be so inclined. Is the Groper with the intoxicating scent, sexy voice and very rigid cock a friend... or a long-time foe who is playing a prank on him? I ain't telling here...well, ok, maybe I'd give it up if you groped me...right there, hehehe.

I gotta tell ya, Erica Pike's story seemed kind of corny in the beginning, mostly because Casper was so wishywashy. But as this short story progresses, I began to empathize with Casper and started to understand some of the issues that shaped his reasoning. Casper had been the victim of bullying in high school, so it is understandable that he would be leery of finding himself in a similar situation in college. The scars that Casper has from his childhood run deep (and perhaps deserved more than a few mentions, but this is a short story, after all) and the groping situation provides him an opportunity to work through that pain. I'm just not sure that Casper completely makes peace with the past-- because Pike ends the story with a reveal that does not expose everything the reader might want to know (is there going to be sequel?).

Overall, Hot Hands has a lot going for it. The naïve but adorable Casper eventually won me over, as did his Hot Handed Lothario. I had to pack away my fuddy-duddiness to enjoy this one, but I'm glad I did. Erica Pike was a new author to me, but now I'll be seeking her out.

Happy Groping, to one and all!

Oh, one other thing… I'm going to have take off some percentage points because Erica's story was at No Boundaries Press, which was a new publisher for me. While I was perusing the selection there I came across some stories by other authors that I downloaded-- against my better judgment. I really shouldn't blame Erica for what some of her fellow writers are putting out at No Boundaries, but I will never, ever consider breast-feeding as just the hallowed activity of a caring mother again! Thanks for the breadcrumbs, Erica, that led me down that crooked, crooked (icky) path. hehehe.

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